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UROP 2019 Announced

Since its establishment in 1992, Louisiana Sea Grant’s (LSG) Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) has provided assistance to more than 150 talented undergraduate students interested in pursuing advanced studies in marine-related disciplines. The program awards grants up to $3,000 each to assist with a hands-on research, student wages, travel and supplies.

Amber Jarrell, Dominique Angibeau, Megan Devine, Alison Carrier, and Claire StansburyAmber Jarrell, Dominique Angibeau, Megan Devine, Alison Carrier, and Claire Stansbury, Louisiana State University (LSU)
Advisor: Subramaniam Sathivel, LSU AgCenter
Evaluating a Chill Spray System Utilizing a Chitosan Solution for the Inactivation of Pathogens on the Surface of Fresh Shrimp

Chitosan is a sugar polymer created from crustacean shells and has been shown to have antimicrobial properties. The undergraduate team of Jarrell, Angibeau, Devine, Carrier, and Stansbury will determine the effectiveness of a chill system that sprays chitosan to reduce Listeria levels from shrimp, all while maintaining the quality of the product.

Briante BrumfieldBriante Brumfield, Southern University at New Orleans
Advisor: Abigail Bockus, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON)
Characterizing the Effects of Temperature on Hypoxia Tolerance in Gulf Brown Shrimp to Support Directed Fishing Efforts Offshore

Shrimp support the most valuable commercial fishery in Louisiana. Each year, parts of the coast are threatened with periods of low oxygen (hypoxia) and it’s important to know how these species will respond. Brumfield will study how changes in temperature affect brown shrimp’s ability to tolerate hypoxia, providing valuable information for the shrimp industry.

Noel DudeckNoel Dudeck, LSU
Advisor: Giulio Mariotti, LSU
Waves, Mixing and Resuspension in University Lake: Restoration Implications

Previous efforts at restoring the lakes adjacent to LSU have not met with long-term success, especially concerning water quality. Dudeck hopes to address this by determining how winddriven waves in University Lake drive sediment resuspension and deposition, mix water and affect water aeration. This information can better inform potential dredging in hopes of lasting, cost-efficient restoration.

Megan GuidryMegan Guidry, LSU
Advisor: Morgan Kelly, LSU
Variation in the Microbiome of the Eastern Oyster: Environmental Influences and Effects on Oyster Health

Little research has been conducted on oyster microbiomes. Guidry will correct this by studying different oyster reef microbiomes over time and looking at the interactions between the microbiome communities, salinity and dermo infection state. These Louisiana-specific results will provide a predictive tool for monitoring populations at risk of dermo infection.

Matthew HutchinsMatthew Hutchins, LSU
Advisor: Maria Teresa Gutierrez-Wing, LSU
Hydrogel-based System for Microalgal Cultures Dewatering

Photosynthetic microalgae have many advantages for product development. While initial efforts focused on biofuels, these microorganisms are sources of valuable products like pharmaceuticals and food. Dewatering the microalgal biomass is an expensive part of the process. Hutchins will determine how physical and chemical variables affect dewatering performance of highly absorbent polymers, called hydrogels, in cultures made from microalgae.

Erik JohnsonErik Johnson, Tulane University
Advisor: Caroline Taylor, Tulane
Avian Coastal Ecology: Survival and Movement in Beach-nesting Birds using Radio Telemetry

Louisiana’s coast is threatened by sea-level rise, putting beach-nesting birds on the front lines. One such species of concern is the Wilson’s plover, to which Louisiana is home for 30 percent of the U.S. population. Johnson will investigate how movements and habitat quality affect the survival of newly-hatched chicks of this understudied species.

Katerine KjosKaterine Kjos, LSU
Advisor: Michael Polito, LSU
Identifying the Geographical Origin of Domestic and Imported Crawfish Using Stable Isotope Analysis

Louisiana leads the nation is crawfish aquaculture, but farmers face competition from imports. Regulations require producers to identify the country of origin, but currently there is no way to independently verify and enforce these labeling laws. Kjos will use stable isotope analysis on packaged crawfish tail meat to provide much needed validation of geographic origin and harvest status product labeling.

Claire LanclosClaire Lanclos, LSU
Advisor: Subramaniam Sathivel, LSU Agricultural Center
Reducing Pathogen Loads on Shrimp with Water Soluble Bacteriocins of Lactic Acid Probiotic Bacteria

Concerns exist about pathogenic microorganisms in seafood, creating high demand for safe products with little to no additives. Water soluble bacteriocins from probiotics may reduce pathogenic loads. Lanclos will evaluate the effectiveness of environmentally friendly bacteriocins in reducing Listeria loads when they are added to shrimp.

Grace NguyenGrace Nguyen, LSU
Advisor: Todd Monroe, LSU
Development of a Standardized Artificial Inseminator for Freshwater Live-bearing Fishes

Small, freshwater fish are important for aquaculture, the aquarium trade and environmental biomonitoring. Rearing the live-bearing fish, however, is challenging as current methods haven’t been updated since the 1950s. Nguyen will work to modernize the protocol by developing a standardized inseminator to assist in the artificial insemination of these species.

Juan Touza, LSU
Advisor: Evelyn Watts, LSU AgCenter
Effect of Lactic Acid on Shelf Life of Fresh Crawfish Tail Meat

The shelf life of fresh seafood is limited. To reach larger, more distant markets, processors need to extend this shelf life. Applying lactic acid during chilling can result in seafood staying fresher longer. Touza will determine the effect of 0 to 2 percent lactic acid on the shelf life of fresh crawfish tail meat, allowing the industry to expand beyond regional markets.

TBD, LSU
Advisor: Navid Jafari, LSU
Biomechanical Properties of Wetland Vegetation for Quantifying Wave Attenuation

Wetland plants provide important benefits to Louisiana’s coast, but it’s unclear how well they protect against storms. Even less clear is how vegetation stems respond to the stress from storm activity. The student will study the vegetative properties of Spartina alterniflora’s and determine its biomechanical and physical properties. This will clarify vegetation bending and breakage which ultimately affects wave attenuation.

UROP is open to full-time undergraduates at all public and private Louisiana colleges and universities who have some science background. In addition to the grants, a student may receive academic credit for his or her project, if his or her school allows it. Generally, junior and senior-level students are best suited for UROP, but any undergraduate with a faculty mentor will be considered. Applications submitted by faculty members are accepted annually in November and December. More information on UROP, application instructions and a list of current and past research projects can be found online at www.laseagrant.org/research/student-research/urop/ .